Saturday, 18 December 2010

Kingston tonight: postponed

I know I have recently craved some time off to actually get some sleep, but I didn't tell the weather it was okay to ruin my gig schedule.

Due to the sudden (if expected) snow showers experienced pretty much countrywide overnight, the decision was made early this morning to pull tonight's christmas show with Tubelord, Hold Your Horses et al due to the bad weather in central London.

The decision was made by the promoter earlier today, though for my money it's the right decision due to the travel time involved for some of the band and the treacherous conditions all round. Of course it does mean that my final show of 2010 turned out to be the sadly horrific gig last weekend in Devizes. To banish the end-of-year bad vibes, I'll be recording a 2010 Year In Review podcast for [edit] radio, one of five to be broadcast in the last week of this year (monday 27th - friday 31st), which will include a look back at all the great music that came out this year, and that we expect to be good in 2011. You know, standard fare.

In the meantime, those of you in the UK should stay warm and stay safe (and pray, as I do, that your christmas orders from Amazon actually arrive in time), whilst the rest of the world sits and laughs.

b. x


(ps. I'm sat watching Pixie Lott run down 'her' top 50 christmas songs on TV. someone buy that girl some charisma..)

Thursday, 16 December 2010

UK tour: dates confirmed!

Part of me can't believe it's nearly Christmas, but I'm assured it is. This means two things:

1. the album is out in roughly a month
and
b. it's time i left my house and did a UK tour.

Once again me and my favourite Bristolian, Oxygen Thief, are hitting the road with ten dates across two weeks. I'm led to believe a brand of thanks known as 'Mad Props' should be assigned to OT for booking most of these shows, and I'm pleased to announced the album launch is at the Rising Sun Arts Centre in Reading on Friday, January 28th.

Also on the tour, returns to York, Leeds, Swindon and Cheltenham, a special sit-down show in the tiny village of Farnsfield, my first gig in Oxford in what seems like forever, and the last Addistock for the forseeable future in Birmingham. Exciting times.

Outside There's A Curse UK Tour
all dates with Oxygen Thief
(except *)

JANUARY
15 Leeds Cardigan Arms
16 Cheltenham Slak (w/Jim Lockey)
18 Bristol Louisiana (w/Gaz Brookfield)
19 Oxford G&D's Ice Cream Cafe
20 York City Screen Basement Bar
22 Farnsfield (nr Notts) Farnsfield Acoustic*
23 Swindon The Vic
28 Reading Rising Sun Arts Centre (w/Quiet Quiet Band)
29 Birmingham The Bright House (w/Quiet Quiet Band & more TBC!)
30 London The Wilmington Arms (w/mistakes.in.animation & James Ewers)

Tickets are available for Reading via WeGotTickets, and the London one will also be up shortly. Tickets for the Swindon show are available from The Vic website, and we're currently hunting around for shows around the Notts area on the 21st.

See you on tour.
b. x

Saturday, 11 December 2010

photoshop handsome

Eugh.

You join me today post-Christmas party, pre-tonight's Devizes show. I have to get on a train in less than two hours but I just would quite like to sleep off the whiskey, wine and vodka headache. I refuse to call it a hangover because I can stand.

Indeed already today I sat down with Mr Ben Morse for some press shots. It's the first time I've ever let anyone do a proper photoshoot, and he was full of helpful feedback:

You look angry. Don't.
That's fine but try to look less like you've smelled a fart
That's good but it's still got your face in it

and so on.

Ben Morse is a hero, and one of the lucky few who managed to traverse his twenties without losing vision or being held hostage by other halves.

To Ben.

And so to tonight, where I'll be playing at boisterous front bar at The Lamb in Devizes. I'm assured it will work, but it does rule out the quiet stuff. I've been advised to be 'chunky' so i've eaten nothing but saturated fats for a month. See you there.

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

pitter patter twitter twatter

i've finally done it. i've finally bitten the bullet and joined Twitter. come follow me at benmarwoodmusic.

album and tour news next week!
x

Saturday, 27 November 2010

'Outside There's A Curse' out on Xtra Mile this January

Hi all,

Cut to the chase. It gives me great pleasure to announce that my debut album 'Outside There's A Curse' will be released this January via Xtra Mile Recordings, home to friends and peers Chris T-T, Frank Turner, Dive Dive and others.

The reaction to this news (which arrived at the same time as Midi Midi's BMG publishing deal) has been so overwhelmingly positive, I'm genuinely touched. At the same time, I'm scared, excited, honoured and apprehensive in equal measure. Understand, Xtra Mile are a label who know what they're doing, with a wealth of experience and fantastic drive.. trying to market my album recorded largely on my bedroom floor full of pop culture references and particularly shoddy production values.

Not that I don't think OTAC is a bad album - far from it, it's turned out better than I could have ever anticipated, and I'd happily go to war for eight of its ten offerings (and the other two are bound to be the popular ones, right?) - but if you'd have told me before I started recording that it would be picked up by XMR, I might have taken a different approach. Still, if they're willing to take the risk it just goes to show how much faith some people have in me, and by that I'm talking not just about Xtra Mile, but also Frank Turner and Evan & Dani Cotter who more than had a hand in getting this together. I'm not saying there was any chinese water torture, but there must have been at least a nipple gripple involved.

The album will mix old stuff ('Oh My Days' and 'The District Sleeps Alone Tonight' cover) with newer stuff (those of you attending shows recently might have heard 'Toil' and 'Tell Avril Lavigne I Never Wanted To Be Her Stupid Boyfriend Anyway') and some stuff which is neither old nor new ('JJ Abrams'; 'Singalong'), and I'm aided along the way by everyone's favourite pedalsteel-er-ist Kurt Hamilton, Richard Goodspeed on piano and introducing Reading's (nay, the world's) premier drummer James Mead Esq and a collection of others (Adrian Pearson and Chris Sartin of Dolly & The Clothespegs, Tom Crook of Band of Hope). It's the most ambitious project to date, I almost had some kind of crazy breakdown making it, and there have been times where I've thought if I ever see or hear this album again for as long as I live, that still would not be long enough, but hearing it for the first time when it was mixed made up for it.

But really.. Xtra Mile? I still don't quite believe it. When I think of how many superb records I've owned with that logo on (the first being Reuben's 'Racecar Is Racecar Backwards', the most recent Chris T-T's incredible 'Love Is Not Rescue'), that mine can be counted amongst them is just bonkers.

There are too many thanks to be handed out, so I'll save it for the CD sleeve.

Pre-order links, tracklist, tour dates and artwork nonsense to follow.

b. x


Thursday, 21 October 2010

the flowerpot men need new homes

hi all

has it really been a month since i last got my shit together to write to you all? thats just crazy. i guess in times like these you can say things like "no news is good news" but actually no news is.. well.. no news. the album as far as i can tell is still due for late December 2010/early January 2011, I have about six songs written for a follow-up something (i haven't decided what yet, and frankly the album isn't even out yet so i don't need to, thankyouverymuch) and i'm currently booking shows for January to back up the album.

SHOWS

NOVEMBER
13 Brighton The Caroline of Brunswick
14 Cardiff Koko Gorilaz (free matinee show)
17 Reading Oakford Social Club
19 Goring The Village Hall

DECEMBER
11 Devizes The Lamb

JANUARY
22 Nottingham Farnsfield Acoustic
28 Reading Rising Sun Arts Centre **ALBUM LAUNCH**
29 Birmingham The Brighthouse

In other news, word reaches me (all the way out in Florida) that The Flowerpot is being sold from under the owner's feet. This is a gutting development for what is a neat, friendly venue - something which London (and most places for that matter) sorely lacks. Good luck to all in their quest to get the Flowerpot rehoused. You can count me amongst those who'll be back when it's ready.

In OTHER other news, they've finally repossessed the studios where I worked for five years before an exit in 2008. I loved that place dearly at the time, and have met a lot of good people there. Also, it was where the drums for This Is Not What You Had Planned and Outside, There's A Curse were recorded.

In FINAL other news, hero UK weatherman Tomasz Schafernaker has been axed by the BBC. Shame on you, BBC. I hear he's on his way to 5Live. Perhaps on the radio he won't get caught goofing off so much..

Catch you soon,
b. x

Friday, 17 September 2010

so did you hear the one about..

.. the 29 year old who awoke one morning with his Dad towering over him telling him to get to work?

no? ok, ok, it was me last Friday. exhausted, i'd left my phone on silent and my alarms off. my dear parents had tried calling me that morning and, getting no answer, dispatched the troops to find me blissfully asleep at 9.20. cue a rude awakening normally reserved for layabout 15-year-olds and much office embarrassment.

my point is, my memory has been decidedly shoddy lately. i've been getting in from Tesco and leaving frozen food out on the side, and then having to eat it all after it defrosts. similarly, my washing machine has forgotten how to wash and spin though, sadly, not how to rinse. everything is falling apart.

BUT all is not lost, dear friends. i have, for example, remembered to book a train ticket to next week's gig in Cheltenham and i've remembered to confirm a slot at the launch party for the debut album of A Genuine Freakshow (it's in Reading, 29th sept, check MySpace for details over the weekend).

i've also remembered to post the links to the following highlights of the Marwood/Turner Reading warm-up shows:

Photosynthesis from Kendal - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W9AXUAC_86Q

Saturday, 11 September 2010

surviving the quiet

hi all

still not dead. just relaxing. i'm sat in my parents' dining room enjoying a relaxing family day, but more about the family tomorrow as well as some traumatising (and, i'm sure you'll all agree, hotly-anticipated) news on my washing machine.

a review of the derby show has appeared here:


which essentially says i'm a) good and b) a frank turner wannabe/apprentice. friend will do just fine, thanks. i don't think i could be The Next Frank Turner due to my ineptitude at writing singalongs, aside from.. er.. 'Singalong', though apprentice would be nice if i come out of it at the end with a qualification. I guess in a way, over the past couple of months, I've completed a brief course at Playing Bigger Venues Than Normalology, and Meeting Some People That Rule.. Studies?

more soon, but i think i'm being kicked off the computer..
x

Saturday, 7 August 2010

confirmed: south by north-west

hi all

i'm sat around in my house rehearsing for tonight's show at the Rising Sun Arts Centre. this is the last show i have booked in Reading for the forseeable, which for a man who likes to play his hometown every couple of months feels a bit remiss. still, tonight should be good.

shows in Derby and Kendal with Frank Turner are now a nailed-on 100% guarantee, so the rest of my august can be summed up in a week you can either term South By North West or A Tale Of No Cities at your leisure.

SOUTH BY NORTH WEST
Saturday August 21st - Oxjam @ The Lamb, Devizes
Wednesday August 25th - The Venue, Derby (w/Frank Turner)
Thursday August 26th - Brewery Arts Centre, Kendal (w/Frank Turner)

Derby's not a city, right?

Bollocks, it is.
x

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

listen again // tomorrow morning

Hi all - just a quick update.

For anyone who missed it and wants to hear it, the BBC Berkshire/Introducing session and interview is available on listen again until this Sunday (8th):


Also, in relation to the Rising Sun Arts Centre show coming up this Saturday (7th), I'll be on BBC Berkshire's breakfast show tomorrow morning just before 8am to let you all know why a) i love it and b) why your attendance this Saturday is essential if they're going to stay open.

Back to the gig. I'll be gracing (headlining, no less) the Garden Stage around 7 - 7.30ish, it's £5 door charge and events are running all day, including poetry and dance and the like. Kids go in free, and in the evening we'll all be treated to the likes of Damien A Passmore and the Loveable Fraudsters, Sixty Watt Bayonets, Dolly and the Clothespegs and the inimitable Heartwear Process. Come on down, your time is now.

All my love.
b. x

Sunday, 1 August 2010

tonight on BBC Berks

hi all

you join me watching the Hungarian GP, every year without fail a turgid procession on a par only with Bahrain, but this year a twisting and turning tale of excellence due largely to Hamilton's ability to break his own car, Vettel's natural talent at occasionally throwing away any victory no matter how solid it looks, and Jensen Button's amnesia (you're the world champion, have you forgotten the pedal goes all the way to the floor to make car go vroom?).

anyway, forgive me, i'm delirious with Sunday time off, on the verge of confirming shows for Derby and Kendal later in the year and preparing the tracklist for next Tuesday's [edit] podcast. i write today to remind you that i'm in session tonight on BBC Radio Berkshire's The Session with Jenny Minard for an interview in which i sound largely boring (most of the interesting anecdotes i have to tell fall most definitely outside what can be broadcast on BBC Berks, which is a lot less than you'd think) and a live track. i also think it's the exclusive play of a song called 'They Will Float Your Body Out To Sea' from the forthcoming album.

Tune in this evening 7pm - 8pm or catch it on listen again..
x

Saturday, 24 July 2010

in session: [edit] radio

post-Trees comedown complete, life is looking up.

i now have everything i need to get the artwork done for the album, i've confirmed a gig in Devizes and there's another one on the way in Derby if luck will have it, and i have a couple of radio sessions lined up in the coming weeks to keep my chin up.

the first indeed, is alone now, in session for Tom Crook's [edit] radio podcast. is it cheating to do a session for a station that i also DJ for? probably, but who cares!

click here for the podcast in mp3 form, it's about halfway in. there's a neat little interview conducted in the confines of my own front room, and then down to business with a version of 'Five Little Secrets' and forthcoming album track 'Tell Avril Lavigne I Never Wanted To Be Her Stupid Boyfriend Anyway'

oh, that Devizes gig by the way, is for Oxjam and is at The Lamb on August 21st. see you there.
x

Sunday, 18 July 2010

.. and oh, i almost forgot

A radio edit of 'Singalong' from the forthcoming album due November has been posted to the Myspace

x

Saturday, 17 July 2010

2000 Trees and a Bath

today, i'm taking it easy.

seriously. barely a finger lifted all day. today, you see, is comedown day from 2000 Trees, which i was honoured to play yesterday. one of the only festivals worth its salt on this isle, entirely devoid of irritating chavs and one of the few run from a love of music instead of a love of money.

sure, my hearing's irritatingly shot, and i have no voice left to speak of, but what a day and what a turnout. a touching combination of friends, people still following me from this time last year and a whole bunch of new fans that i didn't even know i had. i hear even Mr Frank Turner himself jumped from a moving van and vaulted the fence to take in some of the set, and when i say 'i hear' i mean 'he told me so'.

i guess the day belonged to that man though. his first major UK festival headline set was incredible, and even managed to beat the Bath Komedia show from a few days before. the Komedia is a beautiful venue, a former playhouse of some description and the kind of old building that is slowly being shut down, demolished, abandoned. but Komedia have given it a home, and it was good to catch up with everyone on Wednesday. my set was okay, plenty of people into 'Oh My Days' and i even managed to scrabble through a new song barely getting any of it right. at 2000 Trees a few days later i get it 5% more right.

but what a day Trees was. for a start, it was the first time i'd ever played on a stage powered by a solar-powered ex-book bus, and it just got better from then on. the 4th annual occurrence of the Cheltenham festival had its wet moments - it has, after all, rained each of the three previous years - but the site held up well. barely a mudslide greeted the likes of Pulled Apart By Horses (rowdy), Future of the Left (sarcastic, sour-faced but brilliant), Chris T-T (overwhelming), Jim Lockey & the Solemn Sun (masterful) and anyone else i saw on the day. i pose for photos, sell a few records and wonder not for the first time this year how the fuck i'm going to sit at my desk on Monday morning.

tonight though, is all about the comedown. i've just got in from a 'run' (i only managed 20 minutes, having decided to run immediately after a cup of tea, and that's a Hazard), i have three films to watch this evening (Walk The Line, the absurdly disappointing Funny Games and Memento) and a pizza to negate the goodness of the exercise (or because of. i'm not sure). to top it off, i even found my copy of The Hold Steady's Stay Positive, which is superb. also on the list of new CDs, alongside the 2000 Trees' compilation Cider Smiles, is Thrill Collins' demo, Death Cab's Something About Airplanes (finally. i'm prepared to be disappointed) and the first Tokyo Police Club EP. considering i went out to buy the Sam Amidon album and a sieve, i'm not entirely sure where it all went wrong. well, not wrong. different.

thanks to Jacqui, who drove me to Bath on Wednesday, and to Richard Sanderson, who obliged for Trees. thanks also to everyone i met in both places, especially the girl who gave me the comic/fanzine/art that is in my bag, just out of reach, the lovely folk i met last year who came with me to Chris T-T this year, and also the crew from Norwich who let me drink their San Miguel and play 'I Know What I Did Last Summer' at them until i ran off into the evening, an evening which ended at the hand of the aforementioned and excellent Thrill Collins, Jim Lockey and Joe Summers near the I Started The Fire stall.

enough reflection on the week though. it's Sunday afternoon now and i forgot to post the above yesterday. i was distracted by Walk The Line, which was great. and the pizza, which was less great. Funny Games, on reflection, is less gutting on the second watch, and is almost an entirely different movie, where allegiances lie elsewhere from the first time. Memento was okay. perhaps an odd way to end, finishing as it did at 3.30am-ish. it made IMDB's Top 250 list if i'm not mistaken, so perhaps i'm just missing something.

x

Tuesday, 29 June 2010

Monday, 7 June 2010

i power kexp

i'll be honest: i've never been much of a charitable giver.

i can't think of one point in my life where i've called up a charity and said "hey, i like your cause, count me in". don't get me wrong, i give to numerous charities but this process always begins with being cornered by a lady - and it is always a lady - with a clipboard on a busy high street. i don't know why it's always females, perhaps men are just poor at getting unsuspecting passers-by to give them money. i guess if they bat lashes in the same way it probably wouldn't have the desired effect, and in your more homophobic regions it could even lead to a crowd at the gallows old-school style or the mass exodus of all hetero-penis from the town pursued by some flouncing anti pied piper..

i digressed. back to the point: i'm a tight fisted bastard. but this all changed this week, when i finally got off my butt and, in this time of financial uncertainty, i made the decision to get involved with Seattle-based radio station KEXP for their summer pledge drive.

i do feel a pang of guilt for giving to KEXP when 6Music is facing the axe, but my reasons are simple:

a. you can't give 6Music any money. fale.
b. i pay my licence fee so i already do, technically, give, although i also give to a whole bunch of shit i don't like and don't watch/listen to. just think about that - you're all technically giving over money so they can make The One Show
c. KEXP has to hand a fantastic back catalogue of streaming archives from their live guests, accessible at the touch of a button, and we're talking both the cutting edge and the time-weathered heroes, from Death Cab and MGMT to Bright Eyes and Los Campesinos!. it also run block parties, music festivals and is home to the single best radio show anywhere in the world: Jon Richards' Jon In The Morning, some effortless mix of the old and new alternative, who'll regularly play, on request or otherwise, stuff from Seattle's own Long Winters and Harvey Danger, plus the likes of Black Keys, Arcade Fire, Joy Formidable, Sam Amidon, Future of the Left, The National, Sufjan, Elliott Smith and the list goes on and on.

there is no other site like this, it is truly one of a kind and, in the current financial climate, i think it's about time i stepped in, albeit with a paltry donation.

with the needle currently sat at just under 50% at time of writing (about $300k short of their target), it's not too late to chip in. at the very least, spend an hour with them a week and improve/expand your music taste (yes yes, regardless of how good it is now, i know yours is great already).

Sunday, 6 June 2010

an evening at the ICA

it's always fascinating, for me at least, to see a songwriter with a band. the endless questions like, how do they write together? do they write together or is that one man responsible for everyone's every move? and which comes first, the song on the record or the song being blasted down into your eardrums at 115dB?

welcome to the ICA. well, not right now but recently. Wednesday night in fact, when i cashed in the ticket given to me by my parents on my 29th birthday to go and watch Matthew Houck's Phosphorescent, famed (in my head at least) for gentle heartbullying country/blues/folk.

but that's deceptive. what that description above doesn't tell you is that your country-blues-folk will be served to you on a platter of psych-rock, elongated with the musical rolling pin that is guitar solos, garnished with the permission of a rather serious-looking curly haired guy from Atlanta. this spindly creature, Houck himself, will wander from centre stage at any opportunity but not forward to bask in any glow, but backwards or sideways to let the band do the work.

i guess for anyone who knows me well the question is simple: you hate drawn-out wig-outs. why the fuck are you there?

simple. Matthew Houck has a voice which, for some reason, i regard to be the perfect voice for the style of music he plays; it breaks, it warps, it sounds out of control but it can't be because he hits the same notes in the same places every time. it's a perfect example of order from chaos, that happens to hit its peak at the most important part of any band: the vocals.

so why the band? in the encore it's clear that a lone Houck can deliver a stunning song himself, as first Pride star 'Wolves' and then Here's To Taking It Easy also-ran 'Heaven, Sittin Down' are given solo treatment, the former taken from its original ukulele-laced slow-burning arrangement, and the latter given new purpose away from its full band country hopalong style, both gleaming in the stage spotlights that night, the lack of any other interference a clear benefit.

but i guess a counter argument can be made, as those two highlights make up only two of the four heart-in-mouth moments at tonight's ICA show (the ICA, incidentally, is a beautiful theatre and venue, albeit one i sadly have little time to explore). a big fan of willie nelson, Houck and band punch out Nelson's 'It's Not Supposed To Be That Way' (released on their Nelson tribute album To Willie) and recent-album highlight 'The Mermaid Parade' to great effect, the main man looking decidedly more relaxed at both these points, taking the microphone from its stand, lead draped over his shoulders, roaming to the front of the stage for once to bask in the sheer heartbreak that, for the Willie Nelson cover at least, just isn't present on the record, and that second verse in 'The Mermaid Parade' gets me at the best of times but tonight it makes for a lump in the throat.

I guess then whatever Houck does, there's always potential for the magic touch. I'll be honest, tonight wasn't the greatest gig ever witnessed by humanity which, given my short attention span isn't surprising when you're dealing with songs forcibly extended to six, seven, eight plus minutes, but Phosphorescent are a band who are more relevant now than at any previous point in its existence, you should check out 'Wolves' and 'The Mermaid Parade' on iTunes and get the free mp3 from KEXP below (more on them soon).

Sunday, 16 May 2010

nearly..

hi all

further to recent site trauma, the relaunch is nearly complete, though sadly it is at the cost of the forum. nearly six years of embarrassing onstage shots and setlists down the drain, although the traffic had tailed off recently anyway.

in the meantime links should be fixed/updated in the next few days, and hopefully all will be well once more.

i'm playing down at 21 South Street Arts Centre this week, Saturday 22nd, entry about £3 i think, and it's entirely acoustic (no PA at all!) so it'll be one for the Novelty books.

see you soon.
b. x

Friday, 14 May 2010

it's the end of the site as we know it

.. and i feel fine?

sure as shit, my webhost today announced an unprecedented loss of data.

benmarwood.com will be down until i'm told it's ready to not be down anymore.

i have a backup of most of the site on my laptop, but inevitably in situations like this i'm sure there'll be something i've forgotten to back up.

something like my forum, whose various backups existed on the same server as the original data. you'll have more news when i do.

thanks,
b. x

Sunday, 2 May 2010

a change of Heart. wear.

regardless of whether you're a solo artist or in a 20 piece choir, i still think you need running buddies. people who you can turn to and rely on when you're out and about in foreign towns, when you're sick of the company of your band or, in my case, yourself.

with Turner abroad, Mr T-T enjoying more success than ever before (and rightly so) and Mssrs Lockey and Thief warming up for a UK tour this week, tonight i had to say goodbye to my running buddies as a collective for the last time. tonight, the Heartwear Process refomed for one night only just to properly split up, all under the excuse/umbrella of a 30th birthday party.

not mine i hasten to add.

i think of these people like my music family. i was there at their first show back in 2004, and i was there at there last tonight. in the meantime they've spawned a great offshoot in Quiet Quiet Band, we've formed a record label, destroyed countless stages and, to my knowledge, i've never argued with any of them.

so tonight we gather together friends of the band, most of them shared with me, as well as Damien A Passmore and the Loveable Fraudsters, the three acts present at their first gig, and we went hell for leather until the flanel shirts were sweaty and the tears were in our eyes. and i did see some grown men cry tonight.

i shall miss these people as a band with all my heart.

mp3: Ben Marwood - No Name #1 (Elliott Smith cover)
http://www.benmarwood.com/site2/nn1.mp3

Friday, 16 April 2010

T minus 1

"Driving one day, a Catholic priest hits a frog hopping across the road.

Horrified at his actions, he pulls over to the side of the road and picks the frog up. Hurt but not seriously, he takes it home with him and feeds it Fly soup.

"You must get your rest", the priest tells the frog, "and in the morning, when you're recovered, I shall take you back to the wild". He turns to leave the frog to rest.

"But", speaks the frog, "I cannot sleep without being tucked in tightly".

The good priest tucks in his injured guest and turns to leave.

"But", speaks the frog, "I cannot sleep without a story".

The priest again honours the frog's request, and reads him a bedtime story until his eyes grow heavy. The kind priest again heads for the door.

"But", speaks the frog, "I cannot sleep without a bedtime kiss".

The humble priest smiles and, after a moment's thought, decides to grant the frog's request, leaning over to kiss him softly.

The frog turns into an 11 year old boy.

And that, your honour, concludes the statement in my defence."

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

the horror, the horror

the end of today brought with it a chilling fact - i have three evenings now to tie up the remaining parts of the album.

not three days, three evenings. fifteen hours maximum, not even factoring in time for the optional extras like making dinner. still, things are shaping up okay, i have a couple of minor adjustments to make to 'Toil' and i still have to try and make 'Singalong' sound vaguely good after a couple of grumbles from the crew now affectionately known as Team Grope.

speaking of the Gropers, shame on me for doubting Kev and Jacqui, they had it in hand the whole time. just three more days to go and their work will be done, and their names forever written onto the plaque of gratitude that hangs in some imaginary hall somewhere in a mansion i don't own.

i'm shitting a brick.

so i'm going to distract myself, having just finished for the day at 1am, due to resume tomorrow. if that's not a horror, then consider this:

i recently got a chance to finally watch Paranormal Activity, until recently my brother's choice of shriek-inducing horror. i was excited given the reports. here we go though: film achieves cult status, filmed on a low budget, won some critical awards, mostly video camera footage, a lot of hype, 'human' (read: unlikeable) characters, otherworldly plot, suspense building to six or so seconds of excitem--

i could be talking about the Blair Witch Project, and you can remember how that turned out. yep, shitty. for five seconds of PA i was totally sold, then the credits rolled, all the best bits prior to that being the stuff i knew was going to happen thanks to the trailers.

rather embarrassingly, do you know what the scariest film i've ever seen is? i kid you not, but it's The Grudge 2. no, not even the Japanese one, the Hollywood one, widely regarding as a steaming pile of crap (see IMDB: 4.6/10 - http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0433386/). the reason for my liking it is probably people's main reason not to like it: it has no point whatsoever.

the first Hollywood Grudge film was a straight (and shit) remake of the japanese film Ju-On - same director, i think, just changed for the mainstream. Grudge 2, meanwhile, was a mixture of bits of Ju-On 2 and the proposed but never completed Ju-On 3 which was sacrificed in order to get G2 done. the result is a plot which makes no sense, starts weird, continues weird, ends weird but scares well. the supernatural beast is the same we got to know in the first one, but in this film it branches out to levels that are just never explained. contrast that with PA's demon and demonology, and at every step there's a clear reason for what's happening. there's no mystery, there's too much reason. since when have demons been reasonable.

also Sarah Michelle Gellar dies in The Grudge 2, which is a fucking brilliant idea that should happen in every single film.


honourable mention then goes to a film i saw shortly afterwards, The Mist. it's based on a Steven King novella, which guarantees nothing. it's a low budget, quite poorly acted b-movie masterpiece again featuring the supernatural, with little explanation at the start as to what the hell is going on, though we're fed a tiny part of what's happened later on. but again, merciless beasts that don't seem to obey reason or have purpose, coupled with an ending that switches from supernatural horror to a much more emotional horror, and then smashes you in the mouth with an ending that would be gutting if it wasn't so hilariously brilliant.

okay, okay, i'm overselling it now, it wasn't brilliant, but it was solid and i like its style. so what have we learned? that sometimes good horror comes from not understanding why the horror exists, what it's up to or what it wants.

which brings me to not a film, but a book: House Of Leaves. i finished reading this recently after it crippled the minds of [edit] radio's Kev Lawson and nu-folk's own Jim Lockey, as well, i found out later, as my buddy Steve Sharman, who works in a mental institute and sees some scary shit. if you look into his eyes you'll see it. once i saw what it did, i had to know why, but half of the book's power is not knowing why. it takes the idea of a supernatural beast and replaces it with a house. yep, a house. no, not a haunted house, as such, but an entity that is a house. maybe. it's never explained, that part.

i'll try and explain, it's a book written from the viewpoint of a character, going through the notes of a deceased old man who is explaining the events captured in a documentary that he claims doesn't exist, which itself documents a house which doesn't obey the laws of basic physical space as we know them, and may or may not be possessed, or serve a purpose. footnotes are scattered everywhere as the tales spin-off onto a tangent, followed by some textbook-like theory, followed by snippets recounting the documentary (which is told like the 'story') which will then give you just enough information about the events which are either about to happen or will eventually happen, only not enough information to piece together a) why this is happening, b) how this event concludes or c) when down the line it occurs.

it's a masterclass in storytelling, and undeniably rewarding, even if the continued
manipulation of space and time will leave you genuinely wondering
about the intentions of your own house, not
to mention incredible art direction
where appropriate descents
are represented
literally

not to mention


disjointed
events
skipping
around
merci
less
ly



all too often leaving you with endless burning questions as to the whys and hows, which quite remarkably by the end you won't mind if they're answered or not, such is the twisting experience along the way.

so:

true horror. it's all about the lack of understanding, the inability to comprehend the nature of its existence and the complete uncertainty as to whether there's a way to master the threat.

which all ties back to my progress with the album quite well, don't you think?
x

Monday, 12 April 2010

the focus grope

do not mistake silence for slacking.

sure enough, as my posts on here decay slightly, business picks up somewhat. we're now in the final stages of finishing the album, i have just four days now to finish all the parts before final mixing, and then it's off to be mastered.

so the terror has set in somewhat.

it's a weird kind of fear, the Pre-Album Shakes, the kind which paralyses you with love and expectation at the same time. and in the end, i personally have spent so long around it i can't even see it (or objectively hear it) anymore.

and so, i have deployed the Focus Grope, because if i can't use my ears, i may as well borrow some people's who are familiar enough with everything without having it steamroller them into a corner and beat them into a bloody surrender. not that that's what has happened to me. indeed if i've learned anything recently it's that 8-tracks simply aren't that versatile.

and so, i sit with baited breath as the reactions roll in, my small troop/troupe of wunderkids tasked with pointing out a) a bad part, b) the good parts and c) any suggestions about the tracklisting. i have agonised over this bastard, and as i mulled over the possibilities i'm faced with the indeterminate horror of Having To Wait And See How It Goes When You Hear The Final Mixes.

so yes. trusty focus grope, they have so far done me proud, minus the seven or so people who have remained silent on it, some of them surprisingly so given that they include both of my other limbs of Broken Tail and also Jim at Josaka, and uber-fans Jacqui and Kev. so five of the people who should have been chomping at the bit to hear this have so far delivered a no-vote with a few days to go. if i were you i'd run for the fucking hills now (though i will excuse Paul Tail on account of his dodgy internet and incredible apathy at life, and Jim because he said he'd get back to me on it, which is like a virtual note from your mum).

and salvation has arrived in that i've found someone to master the album, but i shan't speak his name lest he hears the album and pulls out. suffice to say, it's a massive relief to get someone at the helm who could have steered the titanic alright.

suffice to say.

actually, suffice to say most of this post is tongue-in-cheek, that i'm Pretty Happy with how things are going and, at the same time, i'm really fucking hungry. but that's just because i haven't eaten for a few hours.

and away i go.
x

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

falling in love again..

.. and this time it's with Cheltenham.

sometimes i still wake up in a cold sweat thinking of last october, when i had to cancel the hallowe'en show in Cheltenham due to an unfortunately intense bout of flu, missing one of Sam Isaac's last shows in the process. thankfully, they're forgiving folks, and i'm heading back there to the Frog and Fiddle this Sunday (21st), alongside Oxygen Thief, Jim Lockey and many more. i'll be on early evening (6.30ish), but things kick off as early as 4.30 in an all-dayer manner.

other gigs!: Reading with Chris T-T/2000 Trees
next wednesday (24th), i'll return to the Oakford in Reading alongside Chris T-T, who this week celebrates his album launch, Love Is Not Rescue, which i make his seventh studio outing. mad. pick it up from Banquet Records for just £7.99. The gig itself, meanwhile, is free.
http://www.banquetrecords.com/cttlove;jsessionid=41820C908C6BFED515EBBCE8A3DD0D1E

not only that, i'm also confirmed for this year's 2000 Trees festival just outside of Cheltenham, which runs from Friday 16th to Sunday 18th July. i'll be on early on Friday, and if last year's Thursday night performance is anything to go by, it's going to be a blast. the ticket link is below, and also confirmed for the weekend are the aforementioned Lockey & Thief, plus Chris T-T, Frank Turner, Metronomy, 65daysofstatic, And So I Watch You From Afar, Subways, Bombay Bicycle Club and Xtra Mile's Crazy Arm, plus more TBC.
http://www.twothousandtreesfestival.co.uk/tickets.php

Oh, and the Dawn Chorus too, whose latest single was all over 6Music and is ace. which brings me to..

choose your own adventure: only you can save 6music
yes. i'm hopping on the bandwagon a little late, but there's still time to save BBC's best digital music station, 6Music. if you have something to say about the axeing of what is essentially a good starting point for many new bands around the country (as well as being the only station prepared to give Steve Lamacq more than an hour a week), then please do email through to trust.enquiries@bbc.co.uk and let them know why.

plus: a thanks
i received word a few weeks ago that 2008's mini-album This Is Not What You Had Planned recently sold-out. Thanks to all of you who continue to inexplicably pick it up even eighteen months on. it should be back in stock shortly, if you're waiting. i think that's it.

keep safe.
ben.

Sunday, 7 March 2010

don't hold your breath

so you might have noticed there was no free mp3 in the utter write-off month that February became.

well, notice no more, it's here:

Hold Your Breath (2010 version)
just over three years on from the original's initial release, this is an updated version, originally recorded as a b-side before i realised exactly how many b-sides i have recorded now. so here it is, all yours, to relive days gone by.

so i guess that takes care of February.. we are in March though, so it's time to offer something else: an alternative version to the upcoming album version of 'Toil'. three versions of this song exist - the full band version from the upcoming album, the version that starts as a cover of Jay Z's '99 Problems' which will likely never see the light of die for obvious copyright reasons, and this acoustic-only version. it's a little more personal than the 'proper' one, if decidedly no-frills, but it's worth a free punt nonetheless..

Toil (alternative version)

Love to all.
b. x

Friday, 26 February 2010

february is cancelled

it's taken nearly four weeks to settle down, and i haven't even settled down.

february was/is a blur of recording action, and tomorrow morning i'll be up with the birds (assuming birds get up at 8am) to head down to White House and mix a few more songs. by my calculations, there'll be just three left to finish by the end of tomorrow, and that's a great feeling. i can't wait to get this record out from under my feet and.. then who knows what i'll do? it all depends on how the record is received and how things pan out in 2010.

i've been confirmed for 2000 Trees on the Friday, the same day as Frank Turner is playing alongside a host of other excellent folk types, so there'll be at least one festival date this year even if you do all have to wait until July. i'm also now playing with Chris T-T at Reading's Oakford in March.

oh, and i finally took a holiday, off to Florida. i have a feeling i'll be seeing a lot more of it, although perhaps in the future i'll refrain from booking gigs on the same day i fly back to the UK. i slept for ten hours on a sofa bed in Brighton which has apparently never been described as 'comfortable', although i swear it was the best night's sleep i've ever had, and ten hours counts as two nights' sleep for me these days. thanks to the lovely people of Stick In A Pot for extending their home to me.

fingers crossed for tomorrow.
x

Saturday, 30 January 2010

pre-divorce jitters

hello from amongst the boxes.

today, my five and a half year tenure at here at what was affectionately own to all - well, most.. ok, at least some - as Marwood HQ comes to a close, memories put into storage, their actual physical presence to be lost forever from the moment the door shuts for the final time.

i have had my best and worst times here, and i'd like to think the former outweighs the latter. i recorded This Is Not What You Had Planned almost in its entirety about twelve feet behind where i lay now, i wiped a tear from my cheek as i finished the final take of 'You Can Hold On Once' ten months later crouched on the floor to my left (i still can't believe, given it was only three tracks of mine, how problematic putting my part of Exclamation At Asterisk Hash together proved to be) and have spent most of the past fortnight cross-legged here, putting together bits of the album slowly. it's all done by the end of March - the dates are in the book. from then on: artwork, mastering, promotion, release, relax.

tomorrow evening i leave here for the final time, away from the intermittently-leaking bathroom ceiling, the paper-thin walls and the shitty boiler, over to a first floor rented room in the house of a friend of a friend. he is nice, the room is nice, the area is.. sketchy, but where around Reading isn't? the past few days were spent measuring the dimensions of all my important stuff, of the corresponding widths and depths of my new home to decide in advance which parts of my life must be given the boot. in fairness, most of it is coming with me by some miracle of feng shui. provided my measurements are right. did i mention i'm shit at it?

but in truth, i'd rather be staying. i hate leaving anywhere, and this is the first place i called mine since i left my parents' ten years ago. to go back to living in someone else's house feels like, and is, a step back, and i have made no secret that i am worse off now financially than when i was working in a supermarket at 16. but, these things must be done. i don't want to leave, but i have to leave. for the greater good, as Inspector Butterman would say.

to all who sailed in her.
x

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

a midwinter picnic

just a quick one - this Sunday (24th) is the second Midwinter Picnic, organised by politically-charged super-songwriter Chris T-T, and i'm honoured to be invited to play.

running at West Hill Hall a few minutes walk from the station, it's a charity alldayer which is an organisation well worth your pennies. i think it's seated, i heard a rumour it's BYOB, and at £12 it's a touch more than your normal hard-earned, but for your money you not only get me and Chris, you also get The Singing Adams (ex-Broken Family Band, who i seem to miss more every day for some reason), Dry The River and Thomas White (of Electric Soft Parade & Brakes) amongst others.

the last clutch of tickets are here for your buying pleasure:

http://www.wegottickets.com/event/60152

xx

Monday, 18 January 2010

so this is Christm.. oh, no, wait, it isn't anymore

heh. sorry. time gets away from you.

happy new year? it's far too late to bid a teary goodbye to 2009 (which turned out to be one of the greatest years in the history of human life, if you're me and/or my immediate life) so i'll just say: thanks to those who came along for the ride, particularly Barry (Oxygen-Thief), Jim (Lockey) and Frank (Turner), everyone who came out to the tour, faces both new and old, and anyone who made the special gigs that much more special, from the decade-closer at the Union Chapel, to the best rainy day ever at 2000 Trees in the summer.

but onwards, and upwards. the past few weeks have seen me neglect everything, ever, in my bid to track down a new place to live at the end of the month. i've found one, it's all on, and business can now resume. after five and a half years, i'll be sad to leave this place. not this place, where the walls are too thin and the heat escapes so readily it's impossible to heat, but the paths i walk every day, and that old guy who has eyes like a teddy bear.

still, the irons are in the fire, the wheels are slowly turning again.

a couple of points to note:

Evening Post's one to watch for 2010
the lovely Jenny at BBC Introducing took it upon herself at the turn of the year to write an article about how 2010 should be my year. it's good to have people fighting my corner without even the need to ask:
http://www.getwokingham.co.uk/entertainment/music/s/2063611_music_bens_looking_forward_to_2010
(yes, the link is from the Wokingham edition, but it's the only one i could find)

the Rising Sun Arts Centre gig on 26th Feb is now not on the 26th
but on Saturday the 20th. Tom Williams couldn't make the 26th after all, so the 20th will have to do.
tickets here: http://www.wegottickets.com/event/68510

hello, you.
x